Any-Crime Rule Does Not Apply to Malicious Prosecution

The Eleventh Circuit has resolved the issue of whether the any-crime rule applies to malicious prosecution. In Williams v. Aguirre, 965 F.3d 1147 (11th Cir. 2020), two police officers appealed the denial of summary judgment. The officers contended they were entitled to qualified immunity for the plaintiff’s claims, in part, because they had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for carrying a concealed weapon.

In April 2014, the plaintiff, Williams, and another individual, Brown, went to a gas station to purchase snacks. Both were carrying firearms “for protection.” Williams did not have a concealed carry permit. The two police officers, Aguirre and Haluska, arrived at the gas station to investigate the robbery of a nearby bank. As Aguirre and Haluska were questioning witnesses, Williams and Brown noticed the officers and decided to walk to a nearby alley. The officers followed and ordered Williams and Brown to lie on the ground. Williams and Brown failed to comply. Haluska noticed Brown had a handgun in his pocket, even though Brown denied having a weapon. Haluska and Brown scuffled after Haluska moved to grab Brown’s arm. During the scuffle, Aguirre tasered Brown. Haluska began handcuffing Brown, while Aguirre drew his pistol and ordered Williams to lie on the ground. Williams complied by placing his hands and knees on the ground. In the process of getting on the ground, a gun dropped from a bag Williams was carrying. As Aguirre approached, Williams turned to his side revealing the gun underneath him. Aguirre jumped back and fired twice at Williams. Aguirre then handcuffed Williams and turned on his dashcam. The dashcam had a function which preserved footage from 60 seconds before activation.

After the shooting Aguirre and Haluska provided incident reports which indicated that Williams had pointed the gun at both officers before being shot by Aguirre. Williams was charged with attempted murder as well as carrying a concealed weapon. A news agency acquired the dashcam footage which contrasted from the officer’s initial report. After the officers viewed the footage, they changed their narrative as to what happened to conform to the video. Williams remained in the hospital until June 2014, when he was sent to the jail. Williams remained at the jail until October 2015. Approximately a year later, the district attorney moved to dismiss the attempted murder charge. The district attorney revealed in a news conference that the charges were being dismissed due to lack of evidence.

After the charge was dismissed, Williams filed a complaint against Aguirre and Haluska contending they deliberately fabricated evidence and submitted false reports, causing Williams to be detained for 16 months before he was able to make bail. Williams brought claims of malicious prosecution against both officers. The officers moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court denied their motion. The officers appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

The Eleventh Circuit found that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Williams ever pointed a gun at the officers. The officers indicated that Williams had pointed the gun at both of them before the video began. Williams denied he ever drew the gun. Because there was probable cause to arrest Williams for carrying a concealed firearm, the court looked at whether the any-crime rule applied to the prosecution of Williams for the attempted murder charge. The officers argued that even if they did not have probable cause or arguable probable cause to arrest Williams for attempted murder, they had probable cause to arrest for carrying a concealed weapon. The court noted that “the any-crime rule and malicious prosecution is unresolved in our case law pertaining to § 1983 malicious prosecution claims.” The court then reviewed common law principals to determine whether the any-crime rule applied to a claim for malicious prosecution. The court found that “[a]t common law, probable cause was specific to each accusation.” Thus, finding the any-crime rule did not apply to malicious prosecution claims.

The officers also argued that because there was probable cause to arrest Williams for carrying a concealed weapon, Williams could not show he was injured.However, the Eleventh Circuit noted that “[w]hen constitutional rights are violated, a plaintiff may recover nominal damages even though he suffers no compensable injury.” As for whether the law was clearly established, the court noted that Williams had a clearly established right to not be seized based on intentional and material misrepresentations in the arrest warrant.As such, even though probable cause existed to arrest Williams for carrying a concealed weapon, a question of fact remained as to whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Williams for attempted murder.

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